Fathers and Sons
Submitted by Charles Heaverin
“Fathers and Sons” is a story about change, the changing of a nation and the changes of a young man. The story represents how the revolution of a society can sweep some away while leaving others to flounder between the old and the new. In “Fathers and Sons” you see the struggles of Arkady, a recent university graduate, grappling with the new modern thoughts of independence and morale upheaval. He goes through a series of changes from a young traditional boy, to a suspecting university student, back somewhat to his roots of homespun traditional values. It is a battle between friends, values and generations. In the end tradition wins, while the modern philosophy dies stubbornly from infection, or collapse from within.
“Fathers and Sons” was finished in 1862, shortly after some very dramatic events in 19th- century Russia. Alexander II signed the Peace of Paris in 1856 ending the Crimean War and then emancipated Russian serfs in 1861. During this period, the younger generation began moving from their comfortable homes and began to make a stir in the universities. The aristocracies of old became boring to them and they began to question everything. In questioning the traditions and values of their parents, this younger generation denied blind faith in everything. They did not want to follow in their parent’s footsteps of comfortable landowners. Turgenev labeled this universal questioning of everything “nihilism”. (Introduction, xii) This movement relied only on things that could be proven scientifically. This liberalism smacked in the face of the conservatives who held their power through the aristocratic way of land ownership. Conservatives, by name, were defenders or conservers of the way thing are, or tradition. So the movement of nihilism was a direct assault on them and their way of life.
The old generation relied on manners and social respect. Literature and the arts were very important. However...